On the September 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Brit Hume claimed that President Clinton, in a recent interview on ABC's This Week, did something that President George H.W. Bush “did not do, and that is criticize the sitting president and his administration.” But contrary to Hume's assertion, Bush repeatedly criticized Clinton administration policies while Clinton was in office:
- In an appearance at a San Antonio grade school on October 13, 1993, Bush expressed concern that the humanitarian mission to Somalia that he had launched nearly a year earlier was being “messed up” by the Clinton administration. “If you're going to put somebody else's son or daughter into harm's way, into battle, you've got to know the answer to three questions,” Bush told the students. He said the president has to know what the mission is, “how they are going to do it,” and “how they're going to get out of there.” Several news reports noted that Bush's comments appeared to violate his earlier pledge not to publicly criticize Clinton during his first year in office. [The New York Times, 10/14/93; The Boston Globe, 10/23/93]
- In an interview published in the February 1994 issue of Washingtonian magazine, Bush criticized the Clinton administration's purported lack of a “general strategy” in the foreign policy arena and the “start-and-stop” failures it had exhibited. Bush pointed to the Clinton administration's handling of the situation in Haiti as an example and also criticized Clinton for his policy toward Bosnia:
The specific point of difference I'd make with the current administration, however, is that when you send a US ship loaded with military personnel to go ashore, you don't say, “They're going ashore” unless you mean it. And you don't get turned back by a group of thugs standing on the dock.
What that does -- starting and stopping -- is weaken the image of the United States as a strong, resolute leader. It was devastating, sent a horrible signal, when that troop ship was turned back -- a signal not just to Latin America, but to Europe and elsewhere. Where I find most fault in the Clinton foreign policy, the area where I find room for criticism, is this pattern of start-and-stop, start-and-stop.
The Clinton administration, you'll remember, began by attacking my administration and the Europeans for being weak and rewarding aggression, and they vowed to get tough. But a few months later, they were essentially where we were. They backed away from their bluster, but not without sending the unfortunate impression of a weak and inconsistent US leadership to the world.
- In a March 8, 1994, speech in Indian Wells, California, Bush repeated his criticism of Clinton's actions toward Haiti. According to a Riverside Press Enterprise article published the next day, Bush claimed “he did not want to be a carping critic, but said President Clinton must be more consistent in carrying out foreign policy. Bush criticized the president in particular for sending a shipload of troops to Haiti last year and then ordering them home when 'thugs' threatened them from the shore.”
- On April 8, 1994, Bush gave a lecture at Carl Albert State College in Poteau, Oklahoma, during which he criticized Clinton's proposed health care reform legislation. “This may sound partisan,” he told the audience, “but I don't believe it will pass and I don't believe it should pass.” [Associated Press, 4/8/94]
- During a July 26, 1996, news conference with Bob Dole, then the Republican nominee for president, Bush “criticized Clinton for boasting of current economic stability,” according to a Kansas City Star article published the following day. Bush argued that “he handed Clinton an economy that grew at about 5 percent in 1993.” “That was not recession,” he told reporters.
- While campaigning with Dole days before the 1996 presidential election, Bush suggested that Clinton had compromised the “integrity of the White House. ” What matters to me now is the integrity of the White House," he said. “I believe in duty, honor, country,” he continued. “I believe in service. I believe in keeping the White House above partisan politics, away from these puny, terrible disputes we're seeing.” [Chicago Tribune, 11/1/96]
- In a letter released on April 23, 1998, Bush “criticized the White House and its allies for their continuing public campaign to criticize [independent counsel Kenneth] Starr and undermine his investigation,” according to a New York Times article published that day. In the letter, Bush professed to hold Starr -- who at the time was investigating the Monica Lewinsky affair -- “in high regard.”
From the September 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
HUME: Former President Bill Clinton has now done something his predecessor, the first President George Bush, did not do, and that is criticize the sitting president and his administration. As Fox News correspondent Major Garrett reports, political observers have a sense for Clinton: He's back.